Rep. Liz Cheney “secretly orchestrated” the writing of an opinion piece by former secretaries of defense that was highly critical of former President Donald Trump, according to a Friday report.
The January op-ed that was signed by all 10 living defense secretaries lambasted Trump’s handling of the U.S. military, but according to a friend of the Wyoming Republican, it wasn’t a spontaneous effort.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Eric Edelman said that Cheney personally met with all of the defense secretaries to include the first one appointed by Trump, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, and urged them to help pen the op-ed, which was published by the Washington Post.
Reports of Cheney’s involvement in the critical piece come amid rising criticism of her role as chair of the Republican National Conference, the House’s No. 3 position within the GOP, and efforts to remove her from that posting by a widening pro-Trump faction.
“She was the one who generated it, because she was so worried about what Trump might do,” Edelman told The New Yorker. “It speaks to the degree that she was concerned about the threat to our democracy that Trump represented.”
The Jan. 3 op-ed was signed by Liz Cheney’s father, Dick Cheney, who was defense secretary under President George H. W. Bush, as well as Ashton Carter, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld.
In particular, the op-ed argued against using the military in “election disputes,” a response to unfounded reports at the time that Trump was considering deploying the military to remain in power.
“As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, ‘there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election,'” the former defense secretaries wrote. “Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”
They went on to cite the U.S. military’s plethora of global commitments, adding that is why “it is all the more imperative that the transition at the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently.”
“Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” they wrote. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”
In September, The New York Times claimed that sources within the Pentagon were concerned Trump was planning to utilize the military if any post-election chaos were to occur after Trump warned that the election could be “fraudulent” due to the use of widespread mail-in balloting.
The report built on earlier statements by Trump that he was considering using the military to quell, at the time, ongoing violent, destructive, and deadly riots around the country. But Trump never publicly stated he was considering using the military in response to the election outcome.
That said, his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn — himself a retired three-star Army general — strongly suggested that Trump deploy the military in a number of swing states where ballot results were being challenged as illegal to “seize” voting machines and “rerun” elections.
Trump “could immediately, on his order, seize every single one of these voting machines,” Flynn told Newsmax host Greg Kelly in December, as the Trump campaign waged legal battles in those states.
“He could order the, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states,” Flynn said.
As for Liz Cheney, reports that she helped set up the critical op-ed are only likely to fuel still-building efforts to remove her from House leadership, especially after the chamber’s No. 1 Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, was caught on a hot mic this week ahead of a Fox News interview expressing his disdain for her.
“I think she’s got real problems. I’ve had it with … I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place,” he said.
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